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I've joined a new team at work as of a few weeks ago. I'm getting along well with the people I've met and I enjoy their company.

There is a fairly big going out to lunch culture on the team. Groups or the entire team goes out to lunch 2-3 times per week and I'm usually asked if I'd like to join. And I like their company so I'd love to just for the social aspect!

However, I do intermittent fasting during the day on weekdays to keep my weight in check. I usually eat a very light breakfast and then don't have anything until dinner time, where I'll have a large meal. Not only does eating lunch frequently cause me to put on weight, but I always feel sluggish and foggy for hours afterwards and it definitely impacts my productivity. When I'm just a little hungry during the day I find I'm much more sharp and alert, and able to focus well on work.

I feel it'd be really awkward and strange to go to lunch with them and just get water or tea, and no food. I'm expecting there's really not a fantastic answer here but I can't imagine this being an exceptionally uncommon problem.

In short is there any way I can still socialize during lunch events without skipping the food portion seeming awkward or strange?

  • I'm an intermittent faster as well so I can imagine the struggle. Have you talked to them about your fast or would you rather keep this information to yourself? – avazula Aug 8 at 17:26
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    @avazula I don't necessarily mind discussing it, but I'm afraid it'll make them less inclined to invite me to lunch and I'll miss out on socializing and teambuilding. – brenzo Aug 8 at 18:05
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I'm an intermittent faster as well. I'm autistic and hardly ever feel hungry, so I skip breakfasts to make it a bit easier for me to feel the hunger. However, I have other dietary restrictions due to autism that sometimes make it difficult to eat outside with other people who don't have the same restrictions.

My coworkers know about my restrictions so it is easier for them to accept that I won't eat with them but still would love to join. When they first invited me to join on their lunch break, I casually told them beforehand that I wouldn't be able to actually share a meal with them but that I'd be happy to have a drink or a side dish I could eat alongside. Maybe you could opt for a drink too? I'm sure you're aware that the rule with intermittent fasting, in order not to break the fast, is to have drinks that don't have calories in it or sweeteners that may be understand by the brain as sugar. So maybe you could have black coffee, tea, or other drinks with sweeteners that don't break the fast? You just need to make sure you'll have something to drink or share with them when joining.

Although it is much easier because I told them why I couldn't share a meal with them, if you haven't told you coworkers and are not willing to disclose it to them, the key is not to make a big deal about it. You could say something along the lines of

Thanks for the invitation, I'd love to join you for lunch. I won't be able to share a meal but I'd be happy to share some time off with you and banter.

Now they will likely have questions about why is it you can't have lunch. The simplest way to handle this would be to be honest about your journey and why you're doing this. If you don't want to tell them, you could say that you're restricting your food intake to a big meal per day. Surely they will be intrigued, but fasting is much more common these days and telling them would dismiss most of the potential questions they may have. The key is to show them you enjoy these times together, no matter what's in your plate - or whether you actually have one in front of you.

Another option would be to propose other ways of spending time together. My spouse recently started organizing board games during lunch break. Their coworkers loved the idea and they're now having a great time together almost every day, after they've eaten (I don't think any of them do fast, but some of them have restrictions like veganism or IBS that make it difficult for them to join if the others go to a "regular" restaurant). Maybe this could be a way for you to spend time to get to know your coworkers while not being uncomfortable by the fact you can't eat with them.

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I feel it'd be really awkward and strange to go to lunch with them and just get water or tea, and no food. I'm expecting there's really not a fantastic answer here but I can't imagine this being an exceptionally uncommon problem.

I have a co-worker who intermittently fasts, and this is exactly what he does. He just comes along to the cafeteria and hangs out. Every so often he'll get lunch, or maybe a snack, but for the most part he just sits with us.

Personally, I don't see any problem with it (and honestly I don't really notice), but I think it depends heavily on how your teammates would react.

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I don't think you have to do anything special. It sounds like this is a general invitation to all group members, and as long as you don't do anything to disrupt the social atmosphere I doubt they would ever disinvite you. Lunch is just a convenient time that everyone can take off from work, but there's no absolute requirement that you eat. Maybe the first time there might be some curiosity about why you're not ordering anything; if you're not embarassed by your fasting, just say that's what you're doing and they will almost certainly accept it.

And if they give you a hard time over it, is it really a group that you want to socialize with in the first place?

I've never been a drinker, but I've never had any problem when going to bars with friends. I now belong to a bridge club, and after the evening game a number of us get together at a pub to discuss the hands; some people order food, some order beer, others just drink water -- no one cares, because we're just there to socialize.

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There is nothing awkward about it. A work-colleague of mine did the same thing and simply announced that he won't eat but he will join us for lunch.

No awkwardness, nothing. There really isn't a problem there, unless you have a problem. If it is difficult for you to fast while people around you are eating, for example.

But for your colleauges, I can assure you there isn't a problem.

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TL/DR: You're way over thinking this. There is no problem here at all.

Intermittent Fasting is a relatively known thing so just say that's what you're doing.

The only interpersonal issue here is being prepared though to explain it occasionally to anyone who hasn't heard of it. Explaining it's for weight control is up to you but I suspect that can be reasonably inferred so, maybe there's no reason to hide it.

I encounter this quite regularly with even me being the one not partaking. I frequently work in big coffee cultures but almost always, someone will tag along just to take a break, even though they don't drink coffee.

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